Day 12 - The Last Day

I have heard a lot songs of many varieties in my short 17 years, but never have I hear a song as horrific as the song played this morning. It consisted of a man screaming, yes that’s it.  We all awoke in rage besides Abe, the mastermind who demised the whole plan. Fortunately for us, there were fresh pancakes served immediately; this satisfied all of us. There wasn’t much time for us to get ready after breakfast, due to the inconsistent  bus driver. The bus came and we all ran outside. We headed to the school for our last day in the lab. The morning’s agenda looked somewhat like this: “Kit, Azor, and Alex can you actually do something?” Pause. “Stop playing pinball.” But this request was never met, we kept playing pinball until we were dragged from our seats and forced to turn off our computers.

With the lab completely done, and the day still young we headed off to wander the streets of Antigua.  Our wallets were practically  empty, coinciding with our stomachs. This left two options:  either  spend the rest of what we have on McDonald’s or head back to Mary’s for a free and delicious lunch. This  had everyone heading back to Mary’s. We were met with the two cutest little puppies that we eventually discovered had fleas. The rest of the afternoon was filled with people venturing in and out of the house to spend time in the markets and Pollo Camperos of Antigua.

At around 7, Mary prepared a wonderful speech and dinner for us. There was also cake. Jenny and Hannah also made short speeches, and then yelled at us to pack our bags this evening. The rest of the night was spent hurriedly cramming all of our possessions into tubs so that we could transport them back into the United States. The main issues were that Jenny went out and purchased the largest painting possible (of course it does not fit in the tub) and that Alex spent most of his money on various machetes. There is a tub solely dedicated to Alex’s machetes and Kit’s enormous textile. A widespread search for the TSC laptop charger was put into place. It was not found and we were just left with many mismatched and dirty socks. The laptop charger is officially MIA and that is the reason for the delay of these much anticipated blogs. I am currently writing this on Jan’s laptop (thank you!). We are now sitting in the girl’s room playing some freak game of Scrabble on iPod touches.

We will see you all tomorrow.

Good night Guatemala,
-Guest written by Kit

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Day 11 - Panajachel Part 2

With crust in our eyes and sunshine in our hearts, we rose from an extended and much needed sleep-in. With all of us accounted for we headed to breakfast. Bottom-less pancakes and orange juice were the only two options on the menu. The minimum selection did not stop us from stuffing our faces. We stumbled back to our rooms with full stomachs and sweaty palms. After a good 35 minutes of recuperation we headed off for our last adventure in Panajachel.

We were all supposed to meet at the beach with the “beautiful view,” unfortunately our hopes were crushed when gray clouds swept the sky. Pictures were taken and smiles were forced, but wait were we all there? “Where’s Judy?” a voice cracked. Eyes searched the crowed for the only freshman girl on the trip. Seconds later a voice peeped, “Yeah Emma is gone too,” most of us disregarded, and we headed to a very elite and prestigious lunch. Again our stomachs pardoned the thought of Judy and Emma’s disappearance, but what we all disregarded was the almighty and mysterious powers of the wonderful Mike. With swag flowing from his ears and hip but smooth bounce to his step, Mike appeared with both Judy and Emma. “We lost track of time,” was their only excuse.

After lunch we were told to meet back at the hotel precisely at 2:30 due to the fact that we couldn’t miss our bus. Because of this we were all in sprints. We made it back just in time. The bus ride back was beautiful but monotonous; beautiful because we were driving over steep cliffs and treachery roads, monotonous because it was extremely packed and easily two and a half hours long. The monotonous part paid off when we realized our driver had a shotgun and we could take pictures with him when we got back—badass, huh.

We got back with two hours before dinner; giving us almost enough time to meander around. With food on our mind we all struck a conversation involving our favorite food from the United States (trust me on this, never have this conversation on an incredibly empty stomach). When dinner came around we all fought for our place in line. Spaghetti was for dinner, and there was plenty of it. With our plates licked and our hunger satisfied, we dwelled in our own thoughts wondering what to do.  Scrabble? Poker? Massage train? None seemed right. “OSCARS! THE OSCARS ARE ON,” someone yelled. If there was a world record time for gathering around the television we would gladly accept first place. The Social Network was the crowd favorite for best motion picture, but when the King’s Speech won, our hearts sank and boos filled the room. I knew the night was over when toothbrushes  filled the mouths  of 14 tired teenagers. No one seemed to stay up too late. The lights shut off, and the doors slammed shut. The day was officially over. Goodnight day 11, we’re going to miss you.

- Guest written by Kit

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Day 10 - Panajachel Part 1

Today we woke up at the crack of dawn and set out for Panajachel for a hard-earned break. Even with the lab completely done, people were cranky due to lack of sleep. The bus ride there did not help either. Our drivers knew it would be more profitable to take the back streets all the way there so as to squeeze in as many people as possible rather than taking the highway. Half way through the three hour bus ride many of us found ourselves blanketed in Guatemalans (yes, people). I myself had a pesky baby who seemed really interested in my new haircut. We were all relieved when the bus ride was over and we could breathe again.

After settling into our hotel we set out for lunch. It proved to be the unanimous worst meal of the trip. Ants were found in soup, chicken was uncooked, hair was in the pizza, and chocolate milkshakes were made with powder and had a lime on the side of the glass. After this small debacle we set out for our zip-line expedition, or as they call it in Guatemala: cables-extremos. We were led by our guides up through a tropical rainforest where we saw monkeys and kookaburras. Finally we arrived to the first zip-line and watched in awe as our guide soared across the ravine to safety land on the other side to get in position to stop us if we were going too fast (lucky he did). Alex went first and his ecstatic woos filled the forest. The rest of us followed and had the time of our lives. Not everything came easily as Oniel consistently knocked off her helmet while breaking for the first few times. Over time though she improved and was quickly a grade-A zip-liner. Maya on the other hand was afraid of heights. It did not help that, “Abe was consistently threatening to push me so I would go faster,” said Maya. Perhaps the funniest moment of the adventure and possibly the whole trip occurred on the fourth zip-line when Jenny set off across the ravine. She ran out of steam maybe 50 feet from the end and did not have it in her to pull with her hands rest of the distance. The guide became angry and was forced to swing out there himself, straddle her, and pull them both back the way he had instructed Jenny to do in the first place.

After zip-lining we went back to our hotel to regroup. Most people went out to explore the market but most of the stuff was the same as in Antigua. A popular item for the girls were the beaded bracelets. “They were really pretty and the white ones looked like little diamonds!” exclaimed Judy. After the market we all set out for dinner.

Dinner proved to be much better than lunch. Our biggest problem was overspending with Alex and Kit each getting multiple entrees. Not all of the blame can be put on them however as the language barrier was evident with our waiter and we were consistently given things we did not order, or the wrong amount of things. Minh also decided to order like five drinks and a bunch of cake. As we were leaving, a rowdy bunch of tourists in their twenties through eighties began to have their own little dance party to the live music playing. Thoroughly freaked out, we decided that it was time to leave and headed back to the hotel for the evening.

-Azor

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Day 9 - Gringo Pool Party

Today started like any other morning: loud knocking on our door trying to get us up. The one difference was this morning we had planned ahead and locked our door the night before so as to get as much sleep as possible. This plan worked brilliantly and Minh, Ben, and I were left alone for an extra ten minutes until we realized breakfast was being served and then we got up. Because Jenny was the tech lead and Abe was assistant tech lead they had already left for the school before the rest of us were up. They brought Hannah along too for good measure because she happens to be somewhat of a computer genius.

The rest of us arrived at the school and expected a warm welcome from our early-rising companions but instead were greeted coldly. Apparently, ideally we would not have come for another hour because they did not want everyone crowding in the computer lab. Everyone got pretty frustrated but Jan came up clutch with a quality run to the bakery which put everyone in better spirits. At 9:15 we were visited by two classes of 13 and 14 year olds who had never used computers before. We sat each one down at a computer and taught them how to log on, open things, and eventually built up to writing on Open Office documents. For the next 45 minutes every computer screen had a Guatemalan name in wacky fonts all in different colors. Success.

After the lesson we were invited by Julio, the school director, to go to a nearby pool for swimming and a barbeque. The pool was amazing. While some of the girls did not even go in the water, the boys stampeded into the cold water and jumped off the diving board. Alex was dubbed King of Guatemala because he was the first person to successfully catch the soccer ball off the diving board after doing a 360-spin in the air. The rest of us could only stare in awe as he emerged from the water victorious, wishing it had been us.

After the pool, the food was ready and we had a delicious meal of flank steak, beans, chips, and guacamole. We sat around and talked until a soccer game broke out on the mini field right next to us. The teams were TSC boys minus Kit (who elected to be on the other team with the Guatemalan boys). Julio stole the show and amazed us with his array of volleys and nimble moves for an adult. I myself must admit that I fell victim to one of his lethal nutmegs which sent roars of laughter through the small crowd. Carlos, unlike previously, was a true stallion of the net (LOL).

After the soccer game Julio and the other teachers at the school who had came along told us to all sit down for one last speech. Julio delivered a heartwarming speech about how grateful he was and how the whole community thanks us for what we have done that sent chills down my spine. After, we each received diplomas from the school as a token of gratitude. Then it was time to head back to the house and we said our goodbyes.

Until dinner time everyone was allowed to go out to the market. After asking around, it became clear that everyone had done a wide variety of things but one thing remained constant: ice cream. I myself cannot resist getting ice cream every time I see a Sarita shop. We all met back to the house around 7 and had a nice dinner of DIY tacos/nachos. After dinner everyone gathered around in the girls’ room for a cordial conversation and happy banter. I am thrilled to say that after nine days of hard work, we are finally starting to truly bond as a team. I’m sure that once we return to Seattle, all of us will be hanging out as best of friends. Only the Kit recovery blog remains and I will leave that up to Abe.

Peace,
-Azor


Abe here, here is another Kit recovery blog! He was healthy enough today to proceed to the pool with us and even get some swimming in. Unfortunately, he also seems unable to learn anything. I kid you not, he did not wear sunscreen today.  Needless to say, the carnage continued and he managed to burn all of his freshly peeled skin along with burning places (such as his face) that emerged unscathed from the initial exposure.  If you happen to be in his family, I’m going to recommend that you have the household sit down and talk about responsible sunscreen use before you ever let him go somewhere sunny again. I’m pretty sure he does not understand what sunscreen does. You should also invest in several gallons of aloe vera. He actually showered yesterday and today though. Guatemala says, hi Jen.


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Day 8 - Safe Passage

This morning was better than usual because we got to sleep in an extra hour. Still, when the lights were turned on violently and we were berated with people shouting at us to get up, it seemed like any other morning. Instead of going to the school today, we were set to tour the Safe Passage facilities. Safe Passage is an organization that helps families that live off “recycling” from the Guatemala City dump to provide them with food, healthcare, and even education.

After breakfast, we set off for the dump. Our first stop was at a cliff overlooking the 40-acre landfill that the dump was located in. It was an image I will never forget. We arrived and saw hundreds of vultures circling overhead and picking through garbage on the ground. We looked down and saw hundreds of Guatemalans sorting through trash frantically. About a hundred yellow trucks are unloading truck load after truckload of garbage with each new one creating a new swarm of people. Our guide Madeline explained how there were no regulations of what can be put in the dump so there is often toxic waste, dead animals, and even sometimes the remains of bodies added when the nearby cemetery runs out of room. Also, toilet paper cannot be thrown in the toilet, so used toilet paper fills their “work place” and causes many medical problems. To make matters worse, the trash releases methane gas and is a huge fire hazard. There was actually a huge fire a couple years ago that covered most of Guatemala City with toxic smoke and killed some of the families that inhabited the dump. Since then, there have been a few rules put in place. The main one is that people cannot live in the dump. Our guide explained that even with this rule, there are still some people who avoid security and live there.

Our next stop was the Safe Passage’s nursery which helps more than 70 kids who were living in the dump previously. There is a playground, soccer fields, classrooms, and cafeterias. It is a true safe haven for these kids that have grown up so deprived. We then visited the main building for Safe Passage where the older kids went to school.  This organization does not only help the kids, they even have a nurse that is open for any of their families any time. Also, twice a year professional doctors fly down and anyone in the community is welcome to visit and get help with their medical problems (often as a result of working in a garbage dump every day). We were fed a lunch of what seemed to be ramen noodles with vegetables at the main building. It was a hit or miss meal with our group as some could not stand it while others loved it. Ben in particular took a liking to it and had about three huge plates of it. When we left the Safe Passage facilities and returned to Antigua, I think everyone realized just how lucky we are to live where we do while enjoying the privileges that we have been born into.

When we got back the house we were given a free afternoon to do whatever we wanted until dinner. Minh, Abe, Ben, and I decided to hit up the ice cream shop to start. After eating, we went to Central Park for a nice game of hacky sack. While we planned to only play for a few minutes, we quickly got into the game and found ourselves playing for upwards of an hour or two. We then went to the market and dinked around for a while until we returned to the park and played even more hacky sack. We met up with some of the girls at the park. Then it started to rain and we quickly made our way back to the house where we found the rest of the group.

We had a delicious but messy dinner of rice and beans which led to Minh and Hannah Arrigoni experiencing something of an ordeal with the dishes. The frustrated yelling rang throughout the house. Now we are all gathered around in the girls’ room talking. Jenny, Abe, Judy, Emma, and Hannah Collins have the curse of being really fast at setting up the computer operating systems and have been working tonight on the five desktops that we are donating to another local school. The school’s computer lab was recently decimated by a flood and we are providing them with much needed replacements. Have fun guys!

It’s getting pretty late and we have been invited to a big pool party tomorrow so I am going to get some rest.

Hasta luego,
-Azor  

 

Here is Abe with the Kit Recovery Blog!

Today seemed like it would be a milestone for this injury and the journey back to good health. Kit started to peel yesterday, and everyone was optimistic that today would result in serious steps back towards a normal lifestyle. We were semi-correct.  Yesterday’s peeling was bad, today was the worst thing I have ever seen. All of the skin seems to be intent on leaving, and he has yet to manage to bathe.  This is six days, and I have to share a room with him every night. Also, I would love to attach some pictures, but that is not going to happen.  He is out cold in bed right now, and he would probably strangle me if I woke him up with a camera. Sorry everyone, I will get on it tomorrow.       

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Day 7 - Why Freshmen are the Worst

Today we were all woken up by a combination of Mike yelling, Jan yelling, and Jenny waking up everyone in sight. We were greeted with a very suspect breakfast of toast, eggs, and Kraft cheese. After eating we set out for the school to work in the lab.

There was not much to do in the lab so Jenny assigned about half the group to play with the school children instead. Maya, Oniel, Kit, Alex, Minh, Carlos, Hannah Arrigoni, and I were excused from lab duty for the day. We headed down to the park to play with the kindergartners who were in the middle of a very intense obstacle course. After the kids were through at the park we headed back to the classroom for some coloring. Maya had the privilege of having the cutest kid in the whole school (and Guatemala) sit on her lap. “I did not know they made kids this cute. I’m planning on taking him home in my tub,” said Maya. This could lead to an awkward situation at customs but we feel it could be worth the risk.

Meanwhile, Abe, Jenny, other Hannah, Judy, Emma, and Ben stayed at the lab to actually do some work.  Therefore, I will be letting the Abe write this paragraph. Thanks Azor, today had one primary issue that we had to overcome. Although Jenny has generally done exceptional work, she left the freshmen in charge of measuring all of the networking wires yesterday. As you can imagine, this lead to a disaster as most of the cables were simply the wrong size. You don’t know the meaning of rage until you crawl around and under seven tables while wrestling a cable only to discover it is half a foot too short.  It is not clear if this was a result of faulty math skills, inexperience, or sheer laziness. Regardless of the cause, we greatly appreciated their efforts as we worked in the sweltering heat to discover their errors. Thankfully, this process went very smoothly, and we cranked away at an impressive pace. Soon, we had 30 computers plugged into a network, and it was time to set it up so that it would be usable. This provided plenty of stress, but we managed to figure things out in an hour or so. Soon, it was time to call back all of the soccer players to help us with the finishing touches. Everyone manned a couple of computers, and Jenny stood on a chair in a partially successful attempt to have an impressive presence while delivering instructions. I don’t think she weighs in at over 110 pounds though, so this was as funny as it was helpful to the team. Still, she was able to lead everyone though the networking process. Soon we managed to finish things up, and a look around showed that everyone was very ready to go back to our house for the relaxation that everyone deserved. Okay, now back to Azor.

Now it’s time for TSC’s first ever time travel blog. While the tech savvy kids were slaving away in the lab the rest of us were invited to participate in a soccer game with the local school. During the first match we could only watch as a team of what seemed to be 7 year olds dismantled a team of 12 and 13 year olds. Still, we went into the game confident that we would be able to use our size advantage against the 11 and 12 year olds but were quickly mistaken. Next, Carlos, Ben, Minh, Kit, and I stepped on to the field and the game began. We quickly were down 1-0 but a goal by Kit not ten seconds after evened the score. Things went downhill from here. We found ourselves down 4-1 in the blink of an eye due to subpar defending and spotty goal keeping by usually great soccer phenom Carlos (LOL). Alex switched to goalie and the team suddenly had life. We made one last push and pulled to within one. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and lost 4-3. The girls’ game followed with Judy holding down defense, Maya and a random Guatemalan girl played midfield, Hannah Arrigoni was the striker, and Oniel was in goal. The girls jumped out to a 2-0 lead with Hannah Arrigoni dominating and powering the ball through the wickets and Oniel excelled at keeping balls out. The girls however ran out of steam and ended up losing the game by a final score of 4-2. We left defeated in score but not in spirit and headed back to finish up the lab.    

When we got back to the house we had a delicious lunch of fried chicken and potatoes. We then set out for La Merced (the town’s big old church) and went exploring. The high banisters with rock walls all around looked like great climbing objects. Alex, Kit, and I could not resist and after some debating decided to climb up a rock wall, all the while avoiding the glass that was put there to prevent people from doing exactly what we are doing. It was all good and dandy until a worker at the church saw us and told us to get down. We grudgingly obliged. We left the church and everybody split up. Some returned to Sky Café for quesadillas, some girls went to look at the local spa, and others went for ice cream and cheesecake. We all met back at the house around 7 for a nice dinner of empanadas and juice.

Gambling has become a popular post-dinner activity and today was no different. We played dice and pops until some had piles and piles of money and others were left crying and broke. The highlight of the event was a game of street dice with all the boys. We all put in some quetzals and the pot quickly rose to 35 quetzales. After ten minutes of tense rolling, Carlos emerged victorious. “This is the happiest moment of my life! Gambling for me has finally paid off,” exclaimed Carlos, who had previously lost all other betting events.

All in all it was a good day but now it’s getting late and I have to go.

See ya,
-Azor

Shout out to Samantha Montarbo, the other half of the HamSam duo that will accompany Hannah Collins and Jenny Lin in the “best friends” award for the senior polls. Also shout out to “the fam” from Hannah Arrigoni (keep commenting on the blogs, she loves it!)

Now that we are past this silly shout out and Hannah is done bugging me, I (Abe) can add the next update on Kit’s sunburn. Although we thought the day would never come, it has finally started to peel off. The scale of this is immense, and it reminds me of a molting lizard. Also, he changed out of his black beater (and almost bathed) for the first time since the hike, aka five days. I attached some pictures that will make the dermatologist inside you cringe.

http://tinypic.com/r/fjf146/7
http://tinypic.com/r/29m96z4/7
http://tinypic.com/r/35baziv/7

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Day 6 - Crimps and Strippers (and RJ-45s)

This morning we all woke up for a nice breakfast of oatmeal and juice. After everyone was done we headed out to the school to work on the lab. The main focus in the lab was seeing who could crump the best. Just kidding. We spent most of the day crimping wires endlessly, which required stripping wire and organizing the eight tiny wires into a specified order. It turned out to be harder than any of us could have imagined and at the end only 18 of the 30 completed ones functioned properly. Well, at least there’s tomorrow.

We went back to Antigua via the city buses which were packed to the brim on this particular occasion. The seemingly infinite bumps on the Guatemalan streets shook every bone in the body time and time again. When we finally got off the bus we were greeted with a delicious lunch of good old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs. There was guacamole on the side which was somewhat a mystery of what it was for.

After lunch we set off the climb the hillside that overlooks Antigua. It was only a ten minute walk up but the view was breathtaking. We overlooked all of Antigua with a monstrous volcano overshadowing the city. The girls quickly began to fix their hair and practice their smiles (and head tilts) as they snapped picture after picture. The boys were not quite as enthusiastic but eventually lumbered to the front and posed for a group picture. I the midst of all this Ben, Minh, Abe, and I found a flat spot and enjoyed a few kicks of the ole hacky sack.

While walking back to the house we noticed some basketball courts with some games going on. We decided to stop and play, thinking that we would be able to clean up. Unfortunately, we were humbled by some guy from Dallas, a few guys from Belgium, and a true Guatemalan. All of them I might add were over twenty. Perhaps the highlight of the basketball game was after it when Ben launched a half court shot that rattled home on the first try.  

We came back the house and had a classic dinner of rice and beans which really hit the spot. After dinner, the boys sat down to watch a copy of Paranormal Activities 2, which Kit and Alex had bought from a vendor on the street. To our dismay, it did not work and we were left unsatisfied. Luckily, the girls had also bought a copy of Black Swan but that proved to not work well either and left people even more frustrated.

Later everyone went out to get a late bite to eat. At the end everyone gathered at the central park but Ben and Minh were nowhere to be found. They had gone to a pizza place instead of going to McDonald’s or the coffee shop with anyone else. Half the group went home, accepting that they would probably roam the mean streets of Guatemala lost forever, and the other half stuck around and kept looking. Fortunately, Ben and Minh showed up and everyone made it home alright.

Throughout the night Jenny and Hannah have been calling people in individually to talk about the trip. “It really gave me a chance to vent and express my true feelings”, says Abe. Overall I think the meetings were a success.

As I sit here and hear the roosters’ cock-a-doodle-doodling, I realize just how different a place this is from Seattle. It’s hard to make plans here when so many things may or may not happen. Is the bus going to come today? Will the water in the shower be freezing or burning hot? Will the volcano explode and destroy the whole city? All of these things remain unknown but one thing is for sure when we go back to Seattle: homework is going to suck. For this, I hope our remaining days in Guatemala are fun and action packed. It’s getting late so I should go to bed.

Adios,
-Azor      

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Day 5 - We've Been Working on the Railroad

If railroad was synonymous to computer lab...
Guest written by Abe and Jenny

It’s day five of our adventure, and it is the first day that we actually worked.  Although we have had an amazing time so far, we have not done anything to justify the massive pile of community service hours that Mr. Howard is dropping on us. The core of TSC is doing work, and that is the reason we were raised at some ungodly hour this morning.

We entered the lab with a load of work to be completed and an army of moderately competent TSC workers.  Somehow, we left with every task done and our spirits (most of them) intact. How we managed to accomplish this is a mystery, but a couple factors contributed to our success: Jenny Lin and Emma Meersman. Emma is something of a computer herself, and she managed to crank out three times the amount of work of the nearest competitor. Jenny was our tireless leader, and she excelled on her first day of work outside the United States. Hannah Arrigoni was dedicated, and I might have managed to teach her how to follow directions after about 200 questions. The rest of the crew was equally as wonderful, and I think we might have formed the best team that TSC has ever assembled.

At about one in the afternoon, we finished our job and hopped back into a local bus.  We cruised on home and got ready to experience more of this foreign experience. Unfortunately, the temptation of GameBoys, books, and trashy magazines was far more enticing than the amazing town that we were staying in. As a result, only Hannah Collins and I (Abe) managed to leave the house. We wandered around and I got the pleasure of meeting Hannah’s best local friends. They seemed very nice, and I suppose they would have been fun during her six month stay in the spring of freshman year. The real point of our walking mission was to scope out a possible salsa location for later, and when we completed this task we returned home.

Everyone was excited for the dance. Well, not everyone. Kit has been working on his sunburn from Saturday, and it is now brown and bubbly. He refused to go salsa dancing, insisting that he never wants to be touched again after a fly landed on him and it hurt terribly. At the salsa place, there was a little man who taught us how to salsa dance with fiery passion. There was an unpleasant rotund guy with a blue shirt and beard with whom Hannah Arrigoni danced with multiple times. I think she liked it. Azor and I (Jenny) were probably the best pair. Abe was hit in the jaw by Alex’s shoulder every time we “side-stepped.” Alex weighs 216 pounds and likes to look at his muscles when he’s bored, so Abe was in a bit of pain. Alex and Azor went to get their hair cut after salsa dancing; they were “fre$h”. The rest of the group went to get ice cream, where queso con fresas (strawberry cheesecake, not cheese with strawberries because that's literally so gross) was a big hit. Oniel double fisted two cones of ice cream—such a champion.

Before dinner was Disney sing-a-long time in the girl’s room while the boys talked about carzzz. We had a nice candlelit dinner minus the candles. Minh Bao did not touch a piece of food, not even the rice!  The plates were cleared and left to the duty of Azor and Oniel whilst Minh Bao immediately decided he was hungry and needed fried chicken. He misses Ezell’s. A group of people ventured to the five-star McDonald’s while Emma and I finished the last two operating systems and Azor and Oniel had a party with the dirty dishes. The girls came back and had a little Glee singing session that was ruined by Alex. Kit, Carlos, and Alex thoroughly studied Cosmopolitan magazine and the rest of us learned Kit’s favorite qualities in men and were left wondering: what is an alpha male? I just accidentally poured lotion in Abe’s hair while trying to apply it to Kit’s boiled shoulders. I think I have to go now.

Love from Jenny and Abe (who wrote the blog), and Hannah Arrigoni (who just has a lot of love in her heart and happens to be sandwiched between the two of us right now)

 

Note: Although Jenny has no shortage of self confidence, she was not responsible for any of the writing that described the exceptional job today. We promise.

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Day 4 - Kings and Queens of the Sky

Today was the first day we got to sleep in. Everyone woke up around 9 and began their morning routine. Mary never fails to amaze us with her hospitality and helped Kit out with his serious sunburn. She broke off a small segment from what turned out to be the very plant that aloe vera is made from and rubbed it on the burned areas. “It felt great”, said Kit.

We went out for a big breakfast around 10. Even though it was early in the morning most people bought milkshakes. Hands down, the best milkshake I have ever eaten. The rest of the food was delicious and everyone left stuffed.

There was talk about going to some museums and poking around but lots of people just wanted to go back to the house and rest. Alex took the time to catch up on some rest. During this time, Carlos had an idea. To get back at Alex shaking him when he was asleep yesterday, Carlos decided to draw a few harmless pictures on Alex. When Alex woke up, he noticed nothing different until he heard some snickers nearby. He looked in the mirror and found a big pink heart in the middle of his forehead. Well done Carlos.

I took the down time to try to catch up on my reading of The Great Gatsby. After about five minutes I realized it was no use. So far I have seen that Emma to have to power to shut out all distractions and crank out some calculus. Everyone was very impressed.

We later went on a walk around the market. A highlight was when we all met back and Kit and Alex showed up with massive machetes. We then stopped by Café Sky to get some lunch. Café Sky has seating available on the roof which has a beautiful lookout of the city of Antigua and the massive volcano looming over everything. The language barrier was evident when we thought that the waiter had charged us 70 extra quetzals for one quesadilla. Turned out, it was just the cost of all the drinks.

After lunch everyone was feeling a bit tired and some of the group decided to take the tuk-tuks, Guatemala’s surprising functional tiny carriages, home. The other half of the group began the long trek home. We stopped at Ben’s request and had a quick hacky sack sesh which has quickly become very popular in the group.

Later that night we had a simple yet delicious dinner of beans, guacamole, salsa, plantains, and tostados. After dinner most of the kids gathered around the computer and watched countless YouTube videos until everyone became sick of crowing around the tiny screen.

Another day in Guatemala has passed and I think the group is beginning to bond better than ever. Everyone is excited for the week to start so we can go back to the school and see all the children. Well it’s getting late here and we have to wake up early tomorrow to catch the bus to the school so I will have to retire for the night.

Deuces,
-Azor

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Day 3 - Volcano Day (minus Alex)

Today we woke up around 6:30 to go hike up a volcano. Unfortunately, Alex had to stay behind because he had spent last night puking seven times and was feeling too tired. We think it was something he ate.

Mike was in a rush saying that we had to be ready to be picked up by the bus 7:00 sharp. Of course, the bus came an hour late. The bus ride was about an hour and a half through windy Guatemalan hills going up towards the volcano Pacaya. This was the same volcano that the last TSC Guatemala team hiked. It blew up last May, so the tour guide took us around a different (and safe) route.

We arrived at the village of San Francisco Del Sole and were greeted by villagers trying to sell us walking sticks wherever we went. They have instructed all of their smallest, cutest children to do this job so it is hard to say no. We began our hike on a path of loose gravel and horse dung. Nevertheless, spirits were high.  Maya, the med lead, got her first real action and gave out some Tylenol and handed out numerous band-aids. When we got to the top we were looking at a volcano peak going upward into a cloudy oblivion. We found a cavern that was about 500 degrees and whipped out the marshmallows we had brought and toasted them over the intense heat. Pretty soon the focus of the group became throwing as many things as we could find into the cavern. Ben took it to the next level and threw his white t-shirt into the pit. We all watched in wonder as it went from spotless white to black in less than a minute.

The hike back proved eventful with many people slipping and sliding down the hills. Hannah Arrigoni could be heard often screaming whenever she thought she would fall, which was quite often. The Lin sisters had particular trouble on the unpredictable ground. Jenny was in need of some extra help and Abe got the lucky job of holding her hand all the way down the hill. “She complained very little. She’s a trooper. A natural born hiker”, explains Abe. Judy on the other hand had both feet slip out from under her and promptly took out both Hannah Arrigoni and my legs, creating a huge dusty pileup.  

The talk of the bus ride back was who would get the first showers. It was a heated debate. When we arrived at the house Minh sneakily slipped into the shower out of order. This was upsetting to many, in particular the girls (Judy). When asked if the shower was worth having people mad at him, Minh smiled and said “I feel like I’m in heaven”. I will take that as a yes.

Some of the boys felt the need to go walking around town before dinner. Ben, Minh, and I stopped by Pollo Campero, Guatemala’s famous fried chicken chain, for a quick bite to eat. We then cruised through the busy market and headed back to the house.

Tonight was the night of a Fiesta thrown by our host family and was started by a heartwarming speech by Mary which left a few people in tears. Then it was time to eat. Dinner consisted of traditional Guatemalan food such as taquitos, guacamole, horchata, chips, tamales, and other delicious Guatemalan delicacies.

We learned a lot of lessons today.

  1. Just because you are the biggest on the trip does not mean you won’t be the first to get sick.
  2. The Lin family should consider hiking more often.
  3. Sunscreen is really important.
  4. Anything is cooler when thrown in a 500 degree pit.

That’s all for today, I can’t wait to update you all on the adventures tomorrow will bring.

G’night

-Azor         

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Day 2 - Llegamos a la Escuela

Everyone woke up around 7 this morning. We were greeted by a delicious breakfast of eggs, juice, and fresh fruit. The day was off to a good start.

We took a colorfully painted school bus, aka Guatemala’s transit system, to Asociation Benedicion de Dios in Alotenango to begin setting up the lab. Before the work started, however, we were introduced into every classroom and were greeted by countless beaming Guatemalan youth. We even got to sit in on a class of five and six year olds and participate in their activities. It proved easy as the whole class was filled with toys and even the teacher admitted that the everyday the kids just played. I am writing letters to Garfield suggesting new teaching methods.

After we were done helping out in class it was time to start working. I would not know how this went because Minh, Ben, Kit and I were pulled aside by the director of the school and told to go play with the children at the nearby park. At the park we played an intense game of futbol on a sandy gravel field. By the end everybody was filthy but in high spirits. The Guatemalan boys we played with were possibly the toughest kids I have ever met. Each one of them must have fallen down at least ten times and had been nailed in the head with the ball around five but they just got back up and kept playing. The Frisbees that Bob Huppe donated were also a big hit with the kids, as many had never played with one before. We hope to teach them how to play ultimate Frisbee later.

When the bus to Antigua pulled up, we could tell that it was already packed to the brim. Nevertheless, the driver opened his doors and beckoned for us to come on. As our party of close to 20 walked down the aisle all conversations that had been previously going on in the bus came to an abrupt halt. There was a lucky few who were able to find seats, such as Minh who got a seat on Hannah Collins’ lap. But the majority were stuck standing in the crowded back.

Finally we got back to the house and had a wonderful meal of vegetables, rice, and beef. We then set out for the market to meet all of our consumer needs. After a quick stop for ice cream we arrived at the market and broke into groups. My best accomplishment of the day was when I bargained my way from buying a 30 quetzale slingshot down to 15 quetzales. Whether this was some clever talking by me or the vendor was just trying to rip me off initially and ended up at the original price is a question that will forever remain unanswered. “We walked down some creepy alleyways”, says Hannah Arrigoni. Don’t worry, they ended up just fine.

After the market we came back and for descended to the girl’s room for massages and candy. Then it was time for a dinner of rice, beans, and plantains.

Next it was the boy’s turn to host the gathering and everyone crammed into one room once again. Judy and Alex had the unfortunate job of dishes tonight. “I loved it!”, exclaimed Alex.

And the moment all you readers have all been waiting for: shout outs. There will be no shout outs today but possibly tomorrow so stay tuned.

Love from Guatemala,

-Azor             

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Day 1 - The Beginning of a Journey

Outside the Continental gate at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, TSC Guatemala assembled. Thirteen students arrived on time ready to go but one was missing. Hannah Arrigoni arrived late with all her luggage and a completely full CamelBak. While everybody was getting ready to take off, somebody noticed that Minh’s bag seemed to be larger than he was. When asked about it, Minh explained that he had packed a sleeping bag, his own sleeping pad, and a pillow; all of which were unnecessary. Chaperones descended on the poor traveler and quickly stole all of the frivolous items. Now everyone was packed and ready but the day proved to be extremely uneventful.

A three and a half hour long flight to Houston with a 45 minute delay tried everybody’s patience. Even as our frugal trip leads booked the red eye to rule them all, the plane ride was not terrible. For the most part everybody tried to catch up on sleep. For many however, this was harder than it sounded and when we arrived in Houston everyone was still tired.

The three hour layover was uneventful and had many wondering why people live in Texas at all. The food was greasy, waistlines were gargantuan, and there was not a hill in sight. While we waited for our flight, some tried to sleep while others sat and tried to occupy themselves until our next plane ride. Finally, we boarded the plane and departed for Guatemala City.

When we arrived in Guatemala, we still had the daunting task of going through customs. To our delight, we got through unscathed and were on our merry way. We were picked up by Julio, the director of the school, and headed off onto the maze that many Guatemalans call roads.

After about an hour of driving past fast food restaurant after fast food restaurant, we finally arrived at the school. For many, this was the highlight of the day as young Guatemalan students approached each TSC member and gave them a heartwarming card thanking them for their help. We unloaded our computers, monitors, and massive amounts of donated shoes at the school. The school seemed great and everyone is excited to be working there.

Mary, Leo, and Manuel have been kind enough to host us on our trip and have been more than accommodating. After we got settled in, we set off to explore the town. We stopped at the ice cream shop to beat the heat and everyone was in a good mood. We also checked out the legendary McDonald’s and it did not disappoint. Unlike McDonald’s in the US, this one had a full fountain, courtyard, and life-size Ronald McDonald.

We returned to the house for dinner and everyone was eager to eat after a long, tiresome day. Before dinner was ready however, we had some time to kick around. Hannah Arrigoni took a special interest in the parrot, who we named Buzz because of his characteristic intergalactic green color. Hannah somehow seems to be the only person who can get him to talk. Needless to say, we were all quite puzzled. The boys began an intense game of Texas Hold-Em which was picked up again after a delicious dinner consisting of tortilla soup, spaghetti, and banana bread.

Everyone in the house is tired from a long day of travel but there is definite excitement about going back to the school tomorrow. I am beat as well and think it is time to retire.

Hasta manana, 
-Azor  

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